Thursday, October 27, 2016


Written by Willy Russell
Directed by Denny Lawrence
Christine Harris & HIT Productions
Q Theatre, Queanbeyan to 29 October

Review by Len Power 26 October 2016

‘Educating Rita’ by Willy Russell is familiar to many people through its 1983 film adaptation with Michael Caine and Julie Walters.  It was first a two character stage play presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London in 1980.

Uneducated Susan (who initially calls herself Rita), signs up for an Open University course in English Literature as a break from her humdrum work and home life.  Sparks begin to fly immediately between her and her assigned tutor, Frank, a middle-aged, alcoholic career academic.

Colin Moody gives a realistic performance as the disillusioned and bitter Frank.  While presenting an unhappy and abrasive character, Moody never loses the audience’s sympathy.  It’s a finely judged performance.

Francesca Bianchi as Susan/Rita is a delight right from the start.  The actress is in complete command of a character who changes with her increasing knowledge and confidence.  She has a great sense of timing with the comedy lines and projects a endearing warmth as well.
Francesca Bianchi and Colin Moody in 'Educating Rita' (photo: Canberra Times)

On a practical and simple set designed by Jacob Battista for Frank’s office at the university, director, Denny Lawrence keeps the dialogue-heavy show moving at a swift pace.  Scene and costume changes are deftly handled.  However, the second act wig worn by Francesca Bianchi was a poor choice, obscuring her face at times in key scenes.

This is a delightful play which has stood the test of time and seems as fresh as when it was first written.  The opening night audience had a good time with it and so did I.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Artcetera’ program from 9.00am on Saturdays.